Saving the Lost

When a family member rejects Jesus

By Beth Hyduke

While it is heartbreaking to have a family member turn away from God and run headlong after sin, Jesus guarantees that faith in Him will sharply and painfully divide some families. In Matthew 10:34-38 Jesus says:
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — a man's enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves their father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.
While it is difficult to experience the fulfilment of this prediction within our own families, we can be confident that God is still in full control and we can trust that He is able to provide us with strength, wisdom, patience, and peace when it does happen.

So what if our own attitude helped push them away from Christ? Instead of getting bogged down with feelings of remorse, move forward in faith, keeping in mind that we are all imperfect sinners. Even a Christian believer with the best intentions frequently fails to say or do the right or the best thing at the right or best time. Our testimony is often weak, our motives tinged with selfish egos and stung pride, and our witness seemingly stumbling and ineffective, especially when faced with open hostility, cynicism, and ridicule. Thank God that He chooses to use us weak and despised things in order to display His glory and power that much more conspicuously (1 Corinthians 1:27-28)! Our awareness of our own deficiencies and limitations should not be occasion for blaming or punishing ourselves, but for extending grace and forbearance to others when they wrong us, and for humbly confessing and making amends for our own wrongs when and where we can, regardless of whether or not they ever reciprocate. We need to make forgiveness our daily discipline; we need to "bless those who persecute us" (Romans 12:14). Ultimately, we need to understand and recognize that we ourselves are weak, imperfect, and inadequate, and when we acknowledge our insufficiency, we are reminded that there is One who unlike any of us, who is fully sufficient and "able to save completely" (Hebrews 7:25). Recognizing this brings the believer back to Him in faith and love — and hope (1 Corinthians 13:13, Romans 15:13). It is this faithful, loving, hopeful confidence in God through every circumstance, especially trying or difficult ones, that is the Christian's most compelling testimony to the unbelieving world.

Remember that even Jesus' perfect testimony did not immediately convince all of His family members to embrace the Gospel and accept Him as Lord and Savior during His earthly ministry. John once wrote, "even His own brothers did not believe in Him" (John 7:5), believing instead that the Gospel He embodied and preached was an indication of His insanity (Mark 3:21) rather than cause for personal conviction and faith. I'm sure that Jesus' brothers were heavy on His mind when He lamented that "a prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household" (Matthew 13:57).

Neither eloquence nor the ability to say and do the right thing at the right time will save a desperately lost person. Only God can do that, and He does it in His time. Our responsibility to any lost unbeliever begins and ends with love. Biblical Christian love is active and seeks the other person's best interest (Matthew 22:37-39, Luke 6:31, Galatians 5:13-14). What that love looks like depends on the relationship with the unbeliever, their age, and the circumstances. It could mean anything from glossing over an offence to limiting contact with them to calling law enforcement if they're engaging in illegal or harmful behavior. Sometimes love can look and feel very harsh and severe when the true intent and purpose of it is good.

In the meantime, don't give up or stop praying. Even if things appear to be pretty bleak and reconciliation looks doubtful, nothing is impossible for God (Genesis 18:14, Job 42:2, Matthew 19:26, Luke 1:37) and nobody is outside of His reach. Since we do not know God's master plan, our job is always to lovingly pray for unbelievers (Luke 18:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18), remembering that our God is "the God of hope" (Romans 15:13) and He is in the business of "redeeming lives from destruction" (Psalm 103:4).

Prime example: Jesus' brothers. In the end, it took 30+ years of Jesus' diligent prayer and witness, but in Acts 1:14, we read that among the other believers worshiping Jesus as God are Jesus' formerly unbelieving brothers. James, the earthly brother of Jesus, now refers to Him with convicted spiritual adoration as "our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory" (James 2:1). What a change of heart this was from his former attitude of skepticism and scorning unbelief. So dwell on this, and be encouraged by the work of the Lord, and don't take signs of resistance towards Christ and the Gospel as the last word on the matter. God may well have a plan to convict, save, and change your loved one in future — even to use them in a powerful way as He did with James who took three decades to see the light (2 Corinthians 4:6) — and He might even use you to do it.

Image Credit: Patrik Nygren; "Convincing"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Salvation  | Biblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | Family-Life  | Hardships  | Jesus-Christ  | Personal-Relationships  | Witnessing-Evangelism

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Published on 9-5-16